Abby Lee Miller and Dance Moms Open up a Fourth Season

By Dawn Miller

Abby Lee Miller - Dance Moms - Lifetime

Abby Lee Miller and company are back! Yes, it’s true. Dance Moms, the Lifetime reality show, debuted for a fourth season on the women-centered network on New Year’s Day to of course, fireworks.

For those of you who may be too wrapped up in the continuing saga of the Kardashian clan over on E!, Dance Moms follows the Abby Lee Dance Company’s Elite Competition Dance Team who hail from Pittsburgh, PA as they train and travel in quest of a national title. The program focuses on a group of young girls who range in ages from eight to 15 and their mothers. If you crave backstage drama, this show is for you. Last year’s season finale featured a slap fight between two moms.

It premiered for Lifetime on July 13, 2011 and has been a steady ratings grabber for the channel; pulling in over 2.8 million viewers and spawning two spin offs. The show’s Facebook page has over one million likes and their Twitter feed has over 275,000 followers.

So, what is the draw besides the cat clawing moms who are willing to do whatever it takes to see that their daughter is showcased front row center? Well, perhaps it is the cutthroat style of Miller who is a cross between Debbie Allen’s tough-talking dancer/mentor character from the hit 80’s movie and TV drama Fame and Attila the Hun.

The Pittsburgh native has been widely criticized for her hard-edged handing of the young dancers, moving many a participant to tears. Kelly Highland, whose 12-year-old daughter Paige appears on the show, called Miller “abusive” in Season 3. However, Miller does not make any apologies for her behavior or how she chooses to run her studio. And Paige? She is back for another session with the Abby Lee Dance Company though one dancer and her overzealous mom will be making a departure in the upcoming weeks.

Unlike many in her profession, Miller has never been a show-stopping performer. Her mother had run other studios before settling in the Pittsburgh area. As a child, Miller trained with her and caught the teaching bug early. She began her own dance company at the tender age of 14 and opened her own shop in 1980. In her tenure as an instructor, Miller has taught over 4,000 students and counting. Many of her former pupils have gone on to perform on Broadway.

Miller may have shunned the spotlight early on in her career, but is now enamored by it. Dance Moms has turned her into a household name as well as a ‘celebrity’ in her own right.

Lifetime’s first attempt to capitalize on the pop culture hit was a dismal failure. Dance Moms: Miami lasted only eight episodes. However, their second attempt included Miller in the mix which appears to be the necessary ingredient for success. Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition premiered on October 9, 2012. Here, 12 dancers vie for a $100,000 prize as well as a coveted scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. Miller is one of the judges and the show will be back for another run.

Love it or hate it. Miller and Dance Moms appear to be here to stay; at least while the ratings keep coming in. Whether it’s Miller’s style or the appalling behavior of a group of nightmarish backstage moms, people tune in. So, if you like drama or just want to see what all the fuss is about, Dance Moms is on Lifetime on Tuesday evenings at 9 PM EST.

Be forewarned, even if you despise it, you will get unceremoniously drawn in. It is like watching a train wreck where you wonder how these women can sit around all day and watch their daughters and worry about how much therapy these young girls are going to need later in life after being ripped apart on a reality show. It could be worse though. You could be taking in an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians. Either way it’s an hour of your life you will never get back.